TALLINN - The possibility of imposing a nationwide ban on nighttime sales of alcohol became a reality again the ruling coalition agreed to discuss a draft bill supporting the measure.
Juhan Parts, minister of economy and a member of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), which is spearheading the move, submitted the corresponding bill for review, and a discussion is slated for Feb. 14.
The draft, which aims to curb alcohol abuse, especially among youth, stipulates a full ban on sales from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. daily.
The bill's framers claim there is a precedent for success. In Tallinn, alcohol-related incidents have noticeably dropped since a similar ban after 8 p.m. was imposed. But currently no comprehensive law exists which regulates sale hours of alcoholic products throughout the country.
Latvia, by contrast, has a nationwide ban on sales of booze after 10 p.m.
"The nation-wide ban would be clear and understandable to everybody, both consumers and shop-owners," IRL chairman and lawmaker Mart Laar told The Baltic Times. "Estonia needs a clear government policy in this matter."
If passed, national alcohol sale regulations would replace those currently in effect in Tallinn.
Agriculture Minister Helir-Valdor Seeder gave an initial nod to the bill, which he believes would prevent late-night road trips to municipal areas where no such ban is in force.
Laar also views this as a central benefit of the comprehensive bill. "It would stop alcohol rallies between local municipalities which have different bans at the moment," he said.
"The alcohol rally on the borders of Tallinn is dangerous not only for alcohol consumers, but for ordinary citizens as well," said Laar.
Alternately, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of the Reform Party expressed doubt over the necessity of a ban blanketing the entire country and its good vs. evil moral base.
"There are very many people who think that a country-wide alcohol ban will allow us to achieve a final victory over the alcohol devil," Ansip said at a government press conference.
There are currently nine regional areas in which it is legal to buy alcoholic products at any time throughout the night. Last summer a controversial move was made by Harju County's governor, Varner Lootsmann, when he placed a county-wide ban on late night sales.
The government found that he had overstepped his powers and repealed the ban. However, the Tallinn City Council, which is dominated by the Centrist Party, backed the restrictive measures and placed their own permanent ban on sales within Tallinn city limits from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Several opinion polls and political leaders have shown support for a nationwide partial ban on alcohol sales though many proposals have been voiced for a later cutoff time.